Take a Seat in Parnell | Alison Ward and Jonathan Gooderham

Alison Ward, Interior Designer and blogger Corner Room Design, and a Parnell resident, interviews Jonathan Gooderham, owner of Jonathan Grant Galleries Parnell.
As published in The Hobson, March 2021. 


I’m a bit of a free spirit so my career unfolded rather than being planned. I have roamed the world absorbing ideas and culture like a sponge and feel most free when I am exploring new places and cultures. I gravitate towards imaginative ideas, wanting to make people think, imagine, smile. With my interior design, I always aim to achieve spaces that give a sense of who the dwellers are on a deeper level. For me that’s something of real value. Online is in…but I really want to connect on a personal level. I believe when you speak your truth with compassion, people will hear you. 

I seem to be developing a reputation for enlivening commercial spaces with creative treatments such a murals, but my passion lies in protecting our planet with better design decisions. 

My favourite place in Parnell is on the banks of the Rose Gardens overlooking the ports. I go there with the dogs and my daughter Poppy… it’s our thinking spot. If I were to create a slogan for Parnell, it would be Parnell, powered by the magic of artisans. 

Alison: Jonathan, I know you established your first gallery in 1984 and that you deal in traditional and contemporary paintings from the 18th through to the 21st Century. In 1989 you purchased ARTIS Gallery and moved both galleries to their current location at 280 Parnell Road, right in the heart of the Parnell, the ‘Creative Quarter’. Both galleries sit successfully side by side, offering clients a selection of both classical and contemporary art plus you have a basement gallery developed to exhibit sculpture collections. What do you think is the main ingredient of your personal success? 

Jonathan: I was an art collector long before I opened my first gallery. I am still an avid collector. I feel I see the business interaction between artist, gallery and client from both sides. 

Alison: How has being located in Parnell contributed to your success? 

Jonathan: I came to Parnell because at that time the Remuera shopping strip was losing its speciality shops and cafés, which were being replaced by banks and other corporate businesses. Parnell is an established area of boutique shops, great restaurants and has a long established history of Art Galleries and Antique Shops. The whole vibrant ‘scene’ was a perfect fit for my business. 

Alison: When I was pregnant with my little girl Poppy who is now eight, I would drive in each week, from where I was living in West Auckland and would walk around Parnell School with the dogs, imagining Poppy would go there one day. Those walks made me feel like I was home. I have only lived in Parnell for three years so am relatively new to the area, but I’ve been so lucky to feel welcomed in by beautiful, interesting and creative people who live and work here. You have been in Parnell a lot longer than me, what is your best memory of Parnell? 

“I vividly remember Les Harvey, resplendent with cane and straw boater, sitting on a Coalbrookdale park bench chatting animatedly to every tourist who walked past. What an example he was to all of us!”

Jonathan Gooderham

Alison: There is a great photo of you taken in 1997, sitting in a chair much like the one you are sitting in today, what do you remember about those times in Parnell? 

Jonathan: We had a lot of fun as can be seen in all the photographs in that exhibition. Sherry Roberts did an amazing job capturing our diverse spirits with fun and good humour, and the launch party in Artis Gallery was an absolute cracker followed by an all-nighter at the VBG. 

Alison: What do you think is the essence of Parnell? The spirit of place? 

Jonathan: A vibrant, creative, friendly artistic atmosphere of village life, and as the first established suburb in Auckland in 1841, tradition anchored by the modern architecture and artworks of the Cathedral at the top of the road and the Museum in the Domain. 

Alison: We’re sitting in front of the famous Mountain Fountain by Terry Stringer, an artist I know you hold in high esteem. The buildings that used to be on the grounds of the Holy Trinity Cathedral were the buildings that inspired me my whole life. The day they were being torn down, I stood there and cried, as to me they represented possibility. I spent hours outside those beautiful buildings imagining the interiors I could create and the ways they could be utilised and filled with purpose again. 

I’m sure you have imagined many things for Parnell. If you could curate Parnell Road, with no restrictions, what would you do? 

Jonathan: Several years ago, Miles Nathan and I put together a proposal for a sculpture walk the length of Parnell Road. Starting with the Mountain Fountain here at the top with each gallery on the way down installing sculptures on plinths. We also had ideas about sculptures on other spots of private land. Rotary were keen to get involved and sponsor some plinths, but council bureaucracy at the time soon scuppered that idea! I still think it is a great concept and something that would create a real point of difference for Parnell. 

Alison: As a result of my interior design background and my love for creative spaces, I have a passion for the appearance of the streetscape and windows and have really enjoyed helping the Parnell Business Association liven up some empty store fronts. You have travelled extensively – what would you like to see in Parnell that we don’t have at the moment? 

Jonathan: The installation of ‘Blue Plaques’ like in London, recognising the important residents and businessmen of Parnell’s long history such as Robert Tod, Sir John Logan Campbell, Gustavus von Tempsky, Sir Frederick Whitaker, John Kinder, Bishop Selwyn, and of course Les Harvey, Bob Sell, and Tony Astle to bring the list up to date. 

Alison: I would love to see a pop-up gallery event in one of the large empty buildings, something new, interactive and a destination for activity in Parnell. My daughter and I have travelled to Melbourne to visit the national galleries events and they are always inspiring and educational. 

Do you think Covid has helped us connect more and if so how? 

Jonathan: Our three gallery websites have been particularly busy with online sales, both here and internationally, New Zealanders are discovering their own country instead of their usual overseas travels. 

Alison:That’s interesting, I feel like Parnell has come out fighting through Covid. There has been a lot of movement on the high street, some stores sadly closing but new and exciting things popping up everywhere. Moving forward I think Parnell will keep welcoming a more diverse community of people and crafts which will help it to evolve and grow. 

Something not many people reading this would know about me is the fact that I worked a season in Antarctica as a chef out at Cape Roberts for a scientific drilling operation. I had dreamed of going there since I was about 5 and I have never felt so at home in the world as when I was there. I was also an Army trained senior level Chef in The RNZAF, it was an amazing time in my life and I made some friends for life during that period. What is something not many people would know about you? 

Jonathan: I flew under the harbour bridge on a parasail in 1980– and got into quite a bit of trouble for my efforts! 

TOP PHOTO CAPTION: Alison Ward and Jonathan Gooderham photographed at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell. Alison Ward seated on Drop chair by Fritz Hansen available from Cult, Jonathan Gooderham seated on Cite armchair designed by Jean Prouve for Vitra, available from Matisse. 

ARTICLE: as published in The Hobson, March 2021. 


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